Down on Culver Parade, a little way from the hussle and hilarity of the esplanade, Sandown boasts a fine 1930’s miniature golf course, complete with a clubhouse in the period style. Behind it prevails the municipal cafe which Matt remembers from many happy visits as a child, some 35 years ago. The cafe has been updated, but it still boasts snacks, ice creams and light lunches, and of course the same gentle views over the manicured greens, and the timeless spectacle of three generations of families whacking futilely at balls as they trudge obligingly around the cunningly-designed course.
Matt and Cat took junior reviewers Bill and Jack to Browns for some lunch one blustery summer afternoon. The spacious, smart and clean cafe was so hot inside due to the greenhouse-simulating glass roof that they elected to sit outside at one of the plentiful picnic tables and endure the wind. Browns menu was simple but wholesome, and extremely reasonable in price, with kid’s meals only £2, and a cup of tea for 85p: in such a prime location this is bargain stuff (although you do have to pay to park).
The party chose an eclectic mix which demonstrated this range: tuna jacket potato, prawn baguette, hot bacon baguette, and kid’s pizza with ‘smilie faces’ The nature of the ‘smilie faces’ was not revealed on the menu, but so endearing did they sound that the order was placed nonetheless. All food to be washed down with fizzy drinks for the children and tea for the grown-ups.
The food was promptly delivered by a courteous young chap. It looked promising, with generous fillings and nicely garnished with salad where appropriate. The ‘smilie faces’ proved not, as feared, to be tuber-based renditions of Carol Smillie but rather some kind of potato product manipulated into chirpily smiling discs which Jack ate with enthusiasm and pronounced ‘really nice’. His pizza was not huge, being off the kid’s menu, but was loaded with cheese and met with approval. Bill’s hot bacon baguette also hit the spot, stuffed as it was with thick and freshly-cooked bacon. Cat was overwhelmed by the generous dollop of prawns in Marie-Rose sauce bursting out of her fresh, white baguette on their bed of crispy lettuce, eventually having to share some of it with Matt, who eagerly rose to that challenge.
This leaves the tuna jacket potato, which, on first impression, looked as good as the rest. Sadly, further investigation proved this superficial judgement to be premature. Although the generous salad garnish was well-specified, with a good range of ingredients including carrot and several different leaves, Matt was disappointed to discover that some of his salad was not just brown at the edges but distinctly slimy – not just from being next to a hot potato either, this stuff was oooold.
The tuna mix was plentiful and enjoyable, but it concealed a potato that was at best lukewarm, with no butter, and which was far from fresh and had undoubtedly been reheated at least once judging by the infusion of brown colour that perfused the spud. Overall a disappointing dish.
Browns provides a great venue for a snack or basic family lunch, with entertainment and a fantastic beach close at hand. The food is at bargain prices, and seems to be pretty good generally, although it’s not perfect.
Browns Cafe and Clubhouse, Sandown